Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Senator Findley Speaks in the Senate on the Abuses of the Canadian Human Rights Commission


Here is an except from the Senate debate over Bill C-304, which will strip the censorship powers from the Canadian Human Rights Commission and repeal Section 13 – Canada’s shameful Internet censorship law.


Canada’s House of Commons recently passed Bill C-304, and now the bill is before the Senate on its way to receive Royal Assent.


The complete speech by Senator Findley can be found at:




Canadian Human Rights Act

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Adjourned

Hon. Doug Finley moved second reading of Bill C-304, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act (protecting freedom).

He said: Honourable senators, I rise today once again to bring your attention to the critical issue of freedom of speech. I first raised this issue in 2010 when I called for an inquiry into the state of free speech in Canada and a debate of section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Today I raise it with regard to a bill presented by MP Brian Storseth to repeal section 13. I applaud Brian Storseth for putting this much-needed bill forward, and it is a great honour to be the sponsor of this bill in the Senate.

Freedom of speech is a right we cannot and must not take for granted. It is a fundamental foundation of a democratic society. All of our other rights and freedoms depend upon our ability to express ourselves freely without reprisals from the state. It is, as Alan Borovoy refers to it, a "strategic freedom."

Speech is the freedom that we must jealously guard. We must protect its integrity and contributions to public debate, because if we were to be stripped of every other right, we could earn them back with this one.

It is with this in mind that the House of Commons has passed this bill to repeal section 13. It received support from Liberal MP Scott Simms and, in past Parliaments, had received support from former Liberal MP Keith Martin.

It is a response to the decrepit state of free speech in Canada that is a consequence in large part of the malpractices and censorship of human rights commissions.

Freedom of speech has been jeopardized by section 13. The broad scope of this section and the wide investigative powers and quasi-judicial independence granted to human rights commissions places too much power in the hands of unelected officials. These commissions have, in the last decade at least, run roughshod over the civil liberties of Canadians. Political correctness has run amok.

The abuses of both provincial and federal human rights commissions cannot be allowed to continue unabated. The censorship of politically incorrect statements in publications is not only wrong but also contrary to our democratic principles.

Comedian Tommy Smothers, for those of you old enough to remember, once remarked that "the only valid censorship of ideas is the right of people not to listen" to them.

If you find an idea stupid, it is your right to ignore it. If you find a joke offensive, it is your right to disregard it. Even statements one might find intolerable or heinously out of line with reality deserve the opportunity to be heard and ignored.

According to former Supreme Court Chief Justice Dickson, "hatred or contempt" refers to only "unusually strong and deep-felt emotions of detestation, calumny and vilification."

Words that are vehemently hate-filled and full of contempt can be dealt with under the existing provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada. Controversial speech has the ability to generate wider public discourse on varying issues that range from religion, to censorship, to tolerance, for instance.

Mandated political correctness has the unfortunate side effect of limiting the scope of possible debate.

Our principles are those of Westminster's traditions, which include tolerance of a wide array of viewpoints, however nonsensical or critical they may be. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association says that the "proper response to speech that is offensive, distasteful, or upsetting is counter-speech."

We do not censor people in Canada based on religion, and we certainly do not censor people based on their hurt feelings. There is a clear difference between being harmed or threatened and being offended. Physical harm, calling for genocide, hate crimes or inciting others to commit violence against identifiable groups clearly are handled within the justice system by existing provisions in the Criminal Code.

Hurt feelings and what one considers to be blasphemy fall under that latter category of being offended. We have no right not to be offended in Canada.

The purpose of human rights commissions and their legislation is not to protect people's feelings or impose their religious beliefs on others; rather, their apparently noble purpose is to prevent the discrimination of Canadians in employment, residential accommodation and wage situations.

Section 13 and its provincial counterparts are well out of line when it comes to meeting the original purpose of these ordinances. Shimon Fogel of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs wrote:

Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act was created as a shield to protect the most vulnerable members of society from heinous messages of hatred. Historically, it provided an effective tool for Canadians, particularly in the fight against Holocaust denial. Unfortunately, Section 13 and its provincial counterparts have increasingly been used as a sword, brandished to stifle valid criticism and chill legitimate expression.

The opportunity for exploitation is too great for these flawed acts to stand without reparation. Anyone can instigate a human rights commission investigation at no cost to their person. They stand to gain in awarded damages of up to $10,000.

Defendants too poor to afford legal advice or unwilling to spend years in a quasi-legal fight are more likely to roll over and acquiesce to a bureaucrat-mandated penalty. Even if they buck the trend of a 96 per cent conviction rate and win, they do not have their costs covered by the complainant or the government. This no-risk, high-reward system promotes its own exploitation.

I urge all senators and provincial representatives across this nation to stand up for freedom of speech, to stand up for Canadians. We live in the greatest nation on earth, the true north strong and free. Let us live up to that mantra of freedom and lead by example by repealing section 13.






The complete speech by Senator Findley can be found at: